Marriage milestones and making it work
By: Bob Sloan
A nationwide search is presently underway to find the longest married couple in America.
Singer-songwriter Karen Javitch has written a catchy little tune titled, “The Anniversary Song.” She wants to promote it by finding the couple that tied the proverbial knot and have been able to keep it from unraveling over the longest period of time.
“Everyone knows the ‘Happy Birthday’ song,” states her press release, “yet we all stumble when we try to sing a song for someone’s anniversary.”
The release goes on to state that Ms. Javitch plans to serenade the lucky couple in person and then donate $1,000 to the charity of their choice.
To register a marriage date for the search, visit jmrproductions.com.
All this got me to thinking and I decided to do a little research on lengthy marriages. Having been divorced twice, the first lasting 12 years and the second just seven, I would not be the one to talk to on the subject of what makes a successful marriage. This proves challenging, considering I serve as pastor and “counsel” couples before pronouncing them husband and wife. I offer them whatever wisdom I can muster up and then hope and pray they discover that happily ever after does exist.
Now back to the research. Here’s what I found:
The world record for the longest marriage is Karam and Kartari Chand of Bradford, England were married for 90 years. Karam passed away in 2016 at the age of 110.
John and Ann Betar of Fairfield, Ct., celebrated their 85th anniversary in 2018. John passed away in September of last year. He was 107. Ann recently celebrated her 102nd birthday.
Closer to home, Brooke and Milvee Godwin of Florence were recently honored for being the longest-married couple at a celebration dinner held at the Leatherman Senior Center. The Milvees, wed in 1948, have been married for 71 years.
Not too shabby, huh?
I had an aunt and uncle, Doc and Freda Conyers of Paris, Tn., who managed to make their marriage last more that three quarters of a century. They celebrated their 80th year together in 2010 with a big to-do at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. It was a grand occasion, but the best part may have been the cake. The hotel’s chef was obviously thinking that no two people could possibly be married that long. When the cake arrived at the table, the inscription in blue icing read, ‘Happy 80th Birthday.”
“Doc” and Freda just chuckled. I’m sure they had laughed their way past far bigger goof-ups over the course of eight decades.
And then there is my all-time favorite marriage story.
I was working the late night shift at Atkinson’ s Texaco in Albemarle, N.C., in the fall of 1989. The reason I remember this is because I was working there one September night when Hurricane Hugo blew the roof off the joint while I was huddled behind the counter.
Hurricanes and marriages – is there a connection? I’ll let you decide.
Anyway, two beautiful and wise blue-haired ladies in their 70s would arrive most mornings at Atkinson’s around 3 a.m. to begin making biscuits from scratch. My, but those biscuits were tasty.
I can’t remember these ladies’ names, so we will call them Greta and Gertrude. While taking a break in the early morning hours, the subject of marriage came up. I sat mesmerized as they shared their stories with me.
Greta went first. She told me she met her hubby in Myrtle Beach on a Saturday night. They got married on Monday at the courthouse in Albemarle. She said that she and her husband were still married and still very much in love 50-plus years later.
Two days and stranger becomes life-long spouse. Go figure.
Gertrude’s story was next. She and her beau grew up together. Their fondness for one another went all the way back to middle school. They never got married, but had shared their lives together for nearly 25 years. She said it was good and that she was happy. And then, one day they decided to make it official. Gertrude said she could not remember the exact reason they decided to take the plunge into wedlock. And so they got married. It was a big church wedding with lots of friends, she said.
Less than a year, later, they were separated. Not long afterwards the divorce papers were signed and the two went their separate ways.
When I asked why, all she said was that things changed and they could no longer get along, let alone live together.
Again, go figure.
Those two marriage stories have stuck with me all these years and I’m still trying to understand what to take from them.
So what is the secret to a long and lasting marriage? The celebrated couples mentioned earlier offered these bits of advice:
Karam and Kartari Chand: “Keeping no secrets from each other. Trying very hard not to argue. Spending as many days as possible with family.”
Ann Betar: “Listen to one another no matter what the situation is. We’re not arguing, we’re listening and we’ve always listened.”
Milvee Goodwin: “Patience. Patience. Patience. Learn to communicate. That’s the hardest thing in the world to do.”
Uncle Doc once told me, “Never, ever discuss anything important after 9 p.m. You’re both tired and nothing good will come of it.” That sounded pretty solid to me, and still does, but I tried and it still didn’t work.
Still not satisfied, I posed the question on Facebook to see what advice others had been given on a successful marriage. Here are a few:
“Always put God first.”
“It’s not 50-50 participation. It’s 100 percent participation.”
“You were joined together as one. You can’t win an argument against yourself.”
“It’s a triangle – God, wife and husband.”
“Don’t have unreal expectations of each other. No one can change the other.”
“Marry your best friend and grow with each other.”
“Nancy’s grandmother said to ‘Just be nice to each other.’ That’s kept us going for 42 years.”
“Mom’s advice was ‘Always make time for each other. You want to still be together when the children are grown and gone.’ Well 53 years later, here we are!”
“Never, ever go to bed mad.”
“Always seek God first. Pray together. Never go to bed angry. Kiss in the morning and at night.”
“Talk to each other and try to understand how the other person feels, and always say ‘I love you’ even if you are mad.”
“Don’t be afraid to say you’re sorry first.”
A successful marriage - is it a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma? Or is it simply common sense, like talking to one another, respecting one another, being kind to one another, and not going to bed angry?
Marriage is not easy. It takes work and commitment, and, most importantly, unconditional love.
And just so you know, I have officiated quite a few weddings and not a single one has ended in divorce.
Contact Editor Bob Sloan at editor@florencenewsjournal. com